By 1860, 4.5 Million people were enslaved in the United States. The Civil War that soon followed ripped apart the nation but led the way for freedom. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln drafted the Emancipation Proclamation, giving freedom to anyone enslaved in states that were rebelling against the Union. This proclamation shifted the focus of the war largely towards the abolition of slavery. Since the proclamation was only for states in rebellion, most slave owners did not see reason to free their slaves. However, a Union victory would ensure freedom.
As the war came to a close, Lincoln feared that the Emancipation Proclamation would be overturned. Therefore, he proposed the 13th Amendment outlawing slavery in the USA. The legality of slavery would no longer be determined on the state level. On this day 150 years ago, the 13th Amendment was ratified by the states and approved as federal law. We celebrate this wonderful event in our nation’s history and remember those who lived and died so that everyone can truly be free.
The modern-day abolitionist movement seeks to give every person the dignity and freedom they deserve. The moral imperative that drove Lincoln and the first abolitionists to fight against slavery also motivates us today.
While we celebrate the 150 year anniversary of the 13th Amendment, we also realize that since that time slavery in our nation and world has not disappeared. In fact, it has grown. Despite the fact that it is illegal in virtually every country on the globe, there are more slaves in our world now than at any other time in human history.
Why is this? Why are people treated as objects to be owned? Why does one person feel they have the right to control another?
While the motives are many for the traffickers, one thing is clear. The truth that led the original abolitionists – that each person has inalienable rights given to them by their Creator of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – is also our passion today. We will continue to fight to bring an end to modern-day slavery and human trafficking until the freedom truly becomes a reality for every person in the Land of the Free.